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Frenetic Activity on the Eve of Egypt’s Elections

November 10, 2011

An Egyptian casts his ballot in the last elections. Photo: BikyaMasr.

Elections for the lower house of Parliament are set to begin Nov. 28, but the election season activities just getting under way.

There is confusion and chaos everywhere as dozens of new, hastily-formed parties try to project their views to a public that has never before experienced real multiparty elections.

In a fascinating account in Middle East Report On-Line, journalist Nate Wright offers a detailed description of amateur politicians trying to appeal to a new electorate. It is entitled, aptly, “Egypt’s Intense Election Eve.” Here is a sample:

At 10 pm, when Cairo begins to wake up, al-‘Adl’s top candidate in the Qasr al-Nil district, Ahmad Saqr, picks up the microphone to introduce his party to a crowd of 75 men, young and old, that spills out onto the street. “Our project is justice,” he says. “Justice and security.” (‘Adl is the Arabic word for justice.) He speaks of street children and unemployment, of his vision for a parliamentary authority empowered to monitor the executive and hold its leaders accountable. He speaks of reforming education and the state’s sprawling security apparatus, the abolition of monopolies. When he finishes, the audience is invited to ask questions. “You are offering problems but there are no solutions,” one man says, and the crowd responds with applause.

Many observers expect that, like Tunisia last month, Islamists will win the bulk of the seats in the new Parliament–not because most Egyptians want an islamic government but because the Muslim Brotherhood is the best organized political body in Egypt. If its “Freedom and Justice party” wins the most seats but not a clear majority, coalitions with more hard line Islamists are inevitable.

But nothing is certain until the votes are counted. There is hope and anxiety, fear and excitement everywhere.

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